AQHA Magazine September/October 2018 Sep_Oct_2018_1-52_proof_FINAL (1) - Page 36

Your once green pasture is starting to resemble an arid desert savannah. Feed and grain prices are climbing and the price of chaff and hay (if you can buy it at all) is going through the roof! Your horses need feeding, but with what? If you can’t get hay and you have no pasture, what on earth are you supposed to do? This is the yearly dilemma of the Australian horse owner. Drought, in its varying degrees of severity, is something we just have to learn to live with. As with most things, it helps to be prepared, but like many, if you wander through life with the ‘She’ll be right mate’ attitude, then a freak severe drought could catch you out, and what then? The most noticeable effect of drought hits you in the wallet. If you’ve been a good boy scout, and are lucky enough to have plenty of storage space then you might have it a bit easier, but for the most part, the economic squeeze of a severe drought will affect even the most diligent of horse owners. This article will explore the priorities that need to be addressed when feeding horses in moderate drought conditions and will explore the options available to help you out of a dry spot, with your horses and your wallet, not to mention your sanity, intact! Forage One of the biggest problems in drought is a lack of forage. If you have been well prepared, you may have a good store of hay to help you through, but in extended periods of drought, there will likely be a time when you run out. Furthermore, Murphy’s Law dic- tates that this particular time will be precisely the time that hay prices are peaking and availability is next to non existent. For many, a good relationship with a farmer or produce store can help tremendously at these times, but failing that there are a couple of ways that hay can be rationed out to go a little further whilst maintaining healthy gut function. Horses need at least 1% of their body weight as dry forage each day. That’s 5kg for a 500kg horse. This is non ne- gotiable, and falling below this amount has it’s associated dangers in the form of colic, laminitis, gastric ulcers and loss of condition. Traditionally the forage allowance is made up of hay, pasture and chaff. It is very important to provide sufficient bulk and enough fibre to keep the digestive system moving along. Dur- ing times of drought, the nutritive value of the roughage is less impor- tant than the physical bulk of it, as poor quality, low energy roughage can be supplemented with hard feed to fill the gaps. 36 • The Australian Quarter Horse Magazine • September • October • 2018 It may be more economical to buy large square or round bales of hay rather than the small bales and to bulk buy where possible to ensure a good supply as well as getting the best possible price. But where hay is extremely difficult to source, you may need to look to alternatives to supply a good chunk of the fibre and rough- age in the diet. Care must be taken not to feed mouldy or uncured hay, but other than that, even a sub standard long stem grass hay will do where nothing else is available. Be very careful when using unusual types of forage and be aware of those areas of the diet that will need to be